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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
summer 2006| 58 |buddhadharma H istorians of religion often repeat the accepted truth that it takes about two centuries for a culture to absorb a new religion and make it its own. Buddhism is certainly not a new religion on the world scene; nevertheless, it may be turning into something new as it is adapted to fit Euro-American cul- ture. And this revised Buddhism might be neglecting crucial elements of the original teachings in favor of values and practices that give comfort to us in the receiving culture. As North Americans and Europeans, we seem particularly attracted to the enticing and psycholo- gized project of spiritual enlightenment, but we are neglecting, at our peril, other fundamental Buddhist values and practices. As we find ourselves one-quarter of the way through this two-century process, Kobai Scott WHitney iS a Writer and buddHiSt cHaplain WHo iS on Staff at cloud Mountain retreat center in WaSHington State. He iS autHor of Sitting inSide: buddHiSt practice in aMerica’S priSonS. The Upper Middle Way: have NorTh aMericaN BUddhisTs reNoUNced reNUNciaTioN? michaeldavidmurphy opiNioN koBai scoTT WhiTNey one of the original themes of the histori- cal Buddha’s teaching, namely, the ideal of renunciation, is being conveniently renounced in the West. While the original Pali term (nekkhamma) means the nega- tion of kama (desire), or “withdrawing from sensuality,” the English word has come to mean something like “putting aside the things of the world.” Thus, in English, we refer to monks and nuns as renunciants. Yet the suttas show us that all serious practitioners must in some way be renunciant. The Buddha held forth a rather strict standard of renunciation for his monks compared to his householder followers. The Pali canon makes clear in many places that householders, as well as monks and nuns, can all attain nirvana. A particu- larly beautiful expression of this truth is found in the Mahavacchagotta Sutta: